The Rules of Inheritance

At age fourteen both of Claire Bidwell Smith’s parents are diagnosed with cancer. By the time she was twenty five they had both died. Rules of Inheritance is her memoir – her own tragic and beautiful journey through her grief.

Claire and Her Mom

Claire and Her Mom


Claire tells her story using time, but not chronologically. This allows the reader to see her grief through a variety of lenses – all authentic. Grief is such a difficult emotion to explain, but this authenticity takes you through these dark places as she manages to let the reader feel her pain, feel her grief. She shares everything from her failed relationships to her struggles to discover who she is all while trying to cope with the loss of both parents.

I admittedly cried in this book. A lot. But there were also moments of real happiness as you see Claire rediscover feeling and joy. In her dad’s final moments, he told Claire, “death and birth are such sweet sorrows, he continues. If there were no death, you would never know how sweet life really is. Somebody was smart enough to put that down in writing one day.” When Claire allows you into the sweet moments of her life now, you believe her appreciation for them.

The fifth and final section of the memoir is titled acceptance and opens with the following quote.

“In a strange way, as we move through grief, healing brings us closer to the person we loved. A new relationship begins. We learn to live with the loved one we lost.”  – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Claire’s journey of acceptance is evident in the letters that she writes to her mother after she has passed. I believe it captures the difficulty of learning to “live with the loved one we lost.” You also see this in the letters she writes to her daughters on her blog.

Claire’s memoir is being made into a major motion picture that will star Jennifer Lawrence – a chance for her story to reach even more people. I will close in Claire’s own words, “all I ever wanted when I wrote The Rules of Inheritance was the chance to help a person or two, to make someone out there feel a little less alone in their grief process. And now all of this (the movie)…I couldn’t dream of a better group of people to help me take my message to a wider audience.”

You can learn more about Claire’s story by visiting her website or reading her memoir.